Chapter 23

A/N It's a bit of a disconnect for me, at times, to be writing ahead (I just finished chapter 42), and then coming back to publish earlier chapters. I'll see a character express something, that is directly opposite of what may happen later, so I have to be careful not to re-write and give it away. However, it does allow me to catch a contradiction, or add something to better explain or set up an event that happens later in the story. For example, I was checking chapter 24 and 25 (I check the next couple of chapters to check for continuity before publishing) I found a a problem with a time line. I had moved on to August 25th in chapter 24, then went back to August 24th, in chapter 25. So I moved that event into chapter 24, and the timeline is now correct. Since I didn't have anything for an author's note, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of how I'm working on this story.

Cal Tech Laser lab, 6 PM, Thursday Aug 23, 2012

Leonard looked over the proposal, making notes as he did so. This was the second one he had to read through today. His four grad students were required to write up a formal proposal. While school didn't officially start until next week, he suggested they submit their proposals to him, so he could look them over, and make corrections, or suggestions on how to improve them, before turning them in to their advisors.

The four of them had gotten all of the lasers set up and tested. Leonard gave them some small experiments, to get them proficient in setting up and running experiments. The experiments he had set up, were some that had been replicated many times, so their results could be compared to well known results.

Since he had read their proposals, he had also gave them specific experiments, intended to give them hints as to how to set up their own experiments, which would help guide them in writing their proposals. Although, thought Leonard looking at the latest proposal, it doesn't seem as if it had helped them.

He looked up at the clock, damn six already. Well, I missed new comic book night last night, and I'll miss dinner tonight. Wait…, damn Raj and Bernadette were coming over tonight. Oh well, no sense going home, Penny's not there anyway. He sighed Hell, I'm not even playing any video games either. Maybe I'm missing her more than I know. I could spend some time sitting in her apartment tonight. Maybe no one has noticed, at least no one has said anything to me.

He went back to the proposal, noting on a separate sheet, what laser and at what power the grad student wanted, and what laser and at what power Leonard knew was required. He scanned the remaining pages, hoping to get home soon enough to call Penny.

Apt 314 10:00 PM Thursday August 23, 2012

Penny was looking at her script, when her phone rang, so Penny leaned over grabbing her phone off the end table. Looking at the number she gave a little shriek and accepted the call, saying, "Bernie, I'm so glad you called. How's everything going?"

"Doing good," said Bernadette, "How about yourself?"

"Well, I'm feeling a little tipsy," said Penny. "How's, work?"

"Normal crap," said Bernadette, "I've gotten a couple of new projects, and they must really like me, they gave me my own bathroom, just outside of my office. Why are you…"

"Is Amy there?" asked Penny.

"No, she's still at the apartment with Sheldon. After we ate, I came home. I was going to take Raj home, but Amy said she'd take him. So how's acting going?"

"Have you talked to Howard?"

"Yes, he's having a rough time living in the space station," said Bernadette. "The other astronauts are picking on him. They even went so far as to stick an alien mask outside the window where he sleeps. He said he screamed for almost nine minutes. So, how are…"

"Raj and Sheldon?"

"Ummmmm, they're both good, I'm sure Leonard has told you. But, I want to ask…"

"Have you seen Leonard?"

"Yes, I have, and I want to talk to you about that," said Bernadette.

"Is something wrong?" said Penny sounding concerned.

"I don't know," said Bernadette. "Last week, Raj said he missed playing Halo. They hadn't been playing much, so they set it up and Leonard never showed. Last night, Sheldon told me, he didn't show up at the comic book store. Tonight, he didn't show up for dinner. He's putting in a lot of hours at work."

"Well, it is the beginning of the year and he said something about working with more grad students this year."

"I suppose that could be it," said Bernadette. "But, ahhhh, ummm, there is something else."

"What?"

"Sheldon told me tonight that Leonard spends a lot of time, by himself, in your apartment. He said one night, he went over there and Leonard was sitting in the dark."

Penny became worried. Leonard never told me he was doing this. Is being separated bothering him that much? What should I do? She started thinking about different things, having forgotten about Bernadette.

"Penny?" Said Bernadette.

"Oh, sorry, I was thinking," said Penny. "Have you talked to him Bernie?"

At least she sounds concerned, thought Bernadette then she said, "No." She paused for a few seconds, thinking about the conversation her and Leonard had had a couple of weeks ago. Well,I shouldn't tell her about that. Finally she said, "Well a little, but he didn't mention it, and he didn't sound as if there was a problem. Hmmmm, but that was over two weeks ago."

"I guess I'll have to talk to him," said Penny.

"You should," said Bernadette, "and I want to know how you…"

"So are you planning a recepti…"

"PENNY, STOP IT," yelled Bernadette.

Penny started, "Stop what?"

"You know damn well what," said Bernadette. "Every time I try to ask you how things are going, you avoid it by asking about someone else. Quit doing that and tell me, what the hell is going on?"

Bernadette heard Penny sigh, then say, "Oh Bernie, it's so much more harder than I thought it would be."

"How?"

"I have to know where to go," said Penny, "where to look, what to say, when to go. Jeanie showed me how to mark in the script, but then we get changes to the script and how and when I move changes, and I forget to write it down, or do write it down and I forget what the symbols mean. Along with that, the director keeps telling me what to do, and I don't do it because I don't think it will work, after all, I'm the actor. Like he's a director, what's he know about acting?"

"You wanted this. You said you were so ready to go to New York."

"Yes, I know," sighed Penny. "But, I didn't realize how much work this was going to be. All I've ever seen was the finished show or movie, the talk shows, the red carpets. My acting classes always concentrated on how to act, never on all this other stuff, and all this other stuff seems like it's the important things I was never taught. I feel like an idiot sometimes."

"Only sometimes?"

"What the hell…"

"I'm kidding," said Bernadette with a chuckle, "I'm sure others have gone through it, before you. Are the people making the show mad at you?"

"They say they aren't," said Penny. "They tell me as long as I'm working at it, they'll be patient with me. But, I can tell they're frustrated at times. So, I'm putting pressure on myself, to learn all of this, and that messes me up. But, it seems like I have to learn something new every day, before I have a handle on what I needed to learn two days ago, and when I don't get it, I get mad at myself."

"How are you doing by yourself?"

"What do you mean?"

"For the last four or five years," said Bernadette, "when something didn't go right, you had Leonard there to help you through things, even when you were broken up. I remember you telling me abut the rent, light bill, and food he paid for. How he helped you through breakups, and other emotional times. But, I was there when he was dating Priya, and saw your reaction to that, and how you struggled. So really tell me, how are you doing?"

"I'm doing OK," said Penny, dismissively. "I miss him, of course, but nothing I can't handle. And, you know, this really has nothing to do with the way I acted when Priya was around, we're together now."

"Is that why you're drinking so much?"

"What do you mean?"

"I said," Bernadette said, "is that why you are drinking so much? When Leonard was dating Priya, and you couldn't see him, you were drinking pretty heavily. You said you were tipsy tonight, and Sheldon told me Leonard said you were pretty well smashed the other night. You tell me you're having problem with your work and it doesn't seem like you're doing all that well. So, I'll ask you again, how are you doing?"

"I told you, I'm doing fine," said Penny indignantly.

"And I say, your drinking tells me you aren't," Bernadette snapped back.

"I don't care what you think my drinking tells you," said Penny hotly. "I've only been drunk that one night. And I've been drunker than I am tonight, a bunch of times, with you and…"

"So you've been drinking tonight?"

Penny stopped, then continued sounding absolutely livid, "I SAID I'M FINE, SO GET OFF MY BACK."

"WHY THE HELL WON'T YOU TELL ME THE TRUTH…" said an enraged Bernadette, sounding like Howard's mother. She stopped, took a deep breath, and said softly, "Penny, I'm sorry. I'm just concerned about you, that's all. I'm just worried about how you're doing, especially now that I know you are having trouble. Come on, talk to me."

Penny was still angry, but was cooling down, "I'm sorry too, Bernie. But, really, I'm fine. It was just that one night I was drunk, I only had a few glasses of wine tonight. I also have Jeanie here. We're getting to be good friends. She's also helping me with all my stuff at work."

Oh, I didn't know that, thought Bernadette, maybe she'll be fine with Jeanie, as long as she has someone, and is actually willing to talk to her. She said, "Ok, fine Penny, as long as you have someone. Like I said, I worry about you, there, without all of us to help you through."

"I do appreciate it, Bernadette," said Penny. "And, I promise, if I start to struggle, I'll call and ask you for help. Well, if Leonard isn't helping me. How's that?"

"That sounds good," In the background, Penny could hear that loud gravelly voice, "Bernadette, I need my back loofahed."

She heard Bernadette sigh, "I've got to go Penny, Howard's mother needs me to loofah her back."

"I heard," said Penny, "You're a good daughter-in-law, Bernadette."

"Yeah, you might not think so if you knew what I was thinking."

Penny laughed and said "Goodbye Bernie"

"Bye Penny, please take care of yourself."

"I will," said Penny. They both hung up, and Penny went to prepare for bed, wondering if there was anything to what Bernadette said.

Studio 44 1 PM Friday August 24, 2012

Penny was in what was supposed to represent the hallway to her Agent's office. Her next scene had her coming out of the door, and yelling back into the "office." She had been going over her script. While she only had one line, it was when she said it, and when she closed the door, that were the tricky parts.

The cameras were moving into place and the director, Steven Flemming, Tina, Jim, and Kelli were walking over. As he walked up, he explained the shot he wanted. "Penelope, we're going to get your back, while you open the door. Take a step out, then turn. The camera in the "office" will get your line, then turn and walk out, close the door and the other camera in the hallway will get your reaction, your disappointment — remember to droop your shoulders — and then walking away.

Penny nodded and waited until the cameras were set, the crew was set, and Steven told her, "Go ahead, were going to do a take."

Penny got into place, the director asked if everyone was ready, and receiving positive comments said, "Ok, quiet everyone. Ok, and…action."

Penny walked to the door, opened it, and took a step out. She turned and said, brightly, "I hope I do bette next time, bye." Penny turned and walked out the door, closing it as she walked away.

"Cut," yelled the director. "Penelope, come here."

Penny walked up to Steven and said, "Yes Steve, what do you need?"

"I asked you droop your shoulders after you close the door," said Steven. "Why didn't you do that?"

"I guess I forgot," said Penny. "Let's do it again."

Everyone reset, and the director yelled "Action."

Penny walked to the door, opened it, turned and gave her line, walked out, closed the door. She kind of half shrugged and then continued. She heard the director, "Cut".

"Penelope", said Steven, "I asked for droop your shoulder, all you did was shrug them. Do you need some time to understand what droop means?"

"No, I got it," said Penny.

"OK, then maybe you can actually droop your shoulders, so we can get through this and mover on?" asked Steven, sounding a bit sarcastic.

Penny felt defensive about the comment, but she nodded and the director yelled, "OK, everyone reset."

Everyone went back to their places. After asking everyone if they were ready, the director shouted, "Action."

Penny walked to the door, opened it, turned and said her lines, then let her shoulders droop. She turned, walked out, closed the door, and started to walk away.

"Cut", said the director shaking his head.

"Now what?" said Penny, looking frustrated.

"Penny, you don't let your shoulders droop until after you close the door and what's with the smile while you're walking away?"

"What do you mean?" said Penny.

"Don't you realize what your character is doing in this scene," said Steve.

Penny shook her head.

"You have been told your character lost a part," said Steven. "You try to stay upbeat while talking to your agent. But, when you leave, you're devastated. Which is why your shoulders droop. And, you smile until the door closes, after that you want to cry, so smiling after the door closes isn't really something you should be doing. Now lets try it one more time. Remember, close door, lose the smile, droop the shoulders, reset everyone."

Everyone got back into place, and then ran through the scene. After saying "Cut," the director said, "All right, Penelope, work on the timing of the droop and loss of the smile. We're moving on for now, next scene." He turned and walked away.

An hour later, Penny and Jeanie were getting ready to do a scene in their apartment. They were both sitting on the couch, at "Action," they ran through their lines. They heard "Cut," and Steve came walking up, "Penelope, how are you feeling in this scene?"

"Er…I think I'm supposed to be upset, because I didn't get the part."

"Yes, exactly," said Steven. "So why are you lounging back, like you don't have a care in the world? Remember, I told you yesterday you should be sitting on the edge of the couch. Why aren't you?"

"I didn't feel comfortable with it," said Penny. "I thought laying back like I did looked like I was defeated."

"It doesn't," said Steven, "you looked relaxed. So, here's what were going to do. We don't have time to run this more than once. So try to sit on the edge, shoulders drooping, and looking sad, while we run this one more time."

He turned to walk away, took two steps and turned, "And when we're done today, I want you to come to my office, we need to talk about a few things. Ok, let go, we're reseting."

Everyone got back into position, and after everyone got quiet, Steve called, "Action".

They went through the scene, and when it ended Steve called, "Cut".

He walked up to Penny with a big smile on his face, "Penelope, remember exactly what you did there. Your body, your face, everything was perfect. Let's move on."